Five Cardinals pitchers, including infielder Aaron Miles, gave up 23 hits, only matching a season high, but the 18 runs were a season worst. Miles allowed the fewest runs of the five, giving up just two runs on a homer by rookie catcher J.R. Towles, who set a Houston franchise record with eight RBIs just his sixth big-league game.
Towles had had only one RBI and three hits in 13 at-bats entering the game.
Right-hander Braden Looper (12-11) lost at home for the first time since before the All-Star break. He had been 4-0 with two no-decisions in that span. Looper continued his pattern of pitching poorly at night. He is 5-10 with a 6.47 ERA under the lights.
ASTROS 18, CARDINALS 1: The Cardinals' 13th loss in 15 games was their worst drubbing of the season. It also marked the 20th time they had given up 10 runs or more in a game. At 10 games under .500, the Cardinals fell back that far for the second time this season.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--LF Chris Duncan underwent surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia Thursday. Duncan is expected to be able to resume athletic activities in 10 weeks, the Cardinals said.
--1B Albert Pujols, who has a strained left calf, feels a bit better, manager Tony La Russa said. Pujols, though still limping, hopes to play in Sunday's home finale. There is no timetable for CF Jim Edmonds, out with a groin injury.
--INF Aaron Miles, besides pitching the ninth inning, also made his first career appearance in the outfield Thursday.
--The Cardinals now have been outscored by 106 runs for the season, the worst differential in the National League.
--Losing their 81st game, the Cardinals can do no worse than finish at .500. More likely, they will suffer their first losing season since 1999.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- The number of games under .500 (33-45) the Cardinals are against non-division opponents with three games remaining against Philadelphia and one against New York.